Any great sci-fi saga needs a compelling villain, and Darth Vader is easily one of the most distinctive bad guys in cinema history. Such is the Sith Lord's presence, he only appears for 12 minutes in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, yet the entire runtime falls under his ominous shadow.
Expect the same from his Rogue One cameo, where he will be used sparingly, but will still have an overbearing impact on the events that unfold. With Gareth Edwards's anthology falling directly in the middle of the main saga, now is as good a time as ever to take a look at Darth Vader's own journey, focusing on the Star Wars live-action movies.
Below is a chronological overview of Vader's life, from 9-year-old slave to powerful Sith Lord. Brace yourself for a journey to the dark side.
1. The Phantom Menace (1999)
Year in timeline: 0
Anakin's age: 9
In the first of the prequels, Anakin Skywalker was introduced as a 9-year-old genius, who also happened to be a slave from Tatooine. It was clear from a young age he was special, and Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn believed him to be the "chosen one." His high intelligence (he constructed C-3PO) and signs of Force sensitivity from a young age encouraged some to speculate that he was conceived by the Force. Indeed, his mother, Shmi Skywalker, claimed he had no father.
In The Phantom Menace, by winning a podrace, Anakin also won his freedom, but had to leave his mother behind. On his journey to Coruscant, the early signs of his developing relationship with Padmé Amidala became apparent.
Despite his outstanding skill, the Jedi Council had were reluctant to train Anakin, as they feared he had a tendency to sway toward the dark side (in hindsight, they were right). However, Obi-Wan offered to train him, and the Council grudgingly agreed.
2. Attack of the Clones (2002)
Year in timeline: 10
Anakin's age: 19
The second prequel starts with Anakin and his new mentor Obi-Wan investigating the attempted assassination of Padmé. By this point, Anakin was falling in love with the Queen of Naboo, and the pair grew close while he protected her.
However, Anakin's tendency to err toward the dark side becomes apparent. After he visited his dying mother, Shmi Skywalker, who had been held captive on Tatooine by Tusken Raiders. When Shmi died, Anakin massacred a large group of Tuskens.
Later, Anakin joined forces with Obi-Wan to take on the evil Sith Lord Count Dooku, but Anakin lost his arm in the battle. After being rescued by Yoda, he married Padmé in secret.
3. Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Year in timeline: 13
Anakin's age: 22
The journey from troubled Force manipulator to full on evil genius reached its peak during Revenge of the Sith. Once again joining forces with Obi-Wan to battle Dooku, this time Anakin was on the winning side. However, with Dooku defeated and helpless, Anakin killed him on Palpatine's command.
When Palpatine revealed himself as Darth Sidious, Anakin initially reports him to the Jedi Master, Mace Windu. However, a deep-rooted fear of Padmé dying during childbirth leads to his conversion to the dark side, helped in part by Palpatine's elaborate explanation of the benefits of joining him. Once Anakin pledged his allegiance to Palpatine, he was dubbed Darth Vader for the first time.
After he massacred the Jedi Temple and used the Force against Padmé, Vader dueled Obi-Wan. In the battle he lost both legs and an arm, and almost burns to death in the molten lava that flows through the planet. However, Palpatine rescued him, returning Darth Vader from the dead and fitting him with his iconic black suit.
The film concludes with Vader, Palpatine and Wilhuff Tarkin overlooking the construction of the Death Star. Which leads us conveniently on to...
4. Rogue One (2016)
Year in timeline: 32
Anakin's age: 41
As witnessed from the end of the second Rogue One trailer, Darth Vader will appear in the movie, although sparingly. Although Orson Krennic has been assigned the task of ensuring the Death Star is constructed, Vader will no doubt be keeping a very close eye on him.
5. A New Hope (1977)
Year in timeline: 32
Anakin's age: 41
In George Lucas's original, and Darth Vader's debut, the Sith Lord captured and tortured Princes Leia in an attempt to find the location of the Death Star plans that the Rebel Alliance had stolen.
When Obi-Wan attempts to rescue Princess Leia, he and Vader have a lightsaber duel, and Vader kills Obi-Wan. He also planned to destroy Yavin 4, the Rebel base, but his evil deeds weren't enough to prevent the eventual destruction of the Death Star.
6. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Year in timeline: 35
Anakin's age: 44
After the Rebels escaped from his assault on Hoth, Darth Vader tried to convince Darth Sidious that Luke could be persuaded, as he was, to turn to the dark side. He also turned full-blown badass by capturing Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO, which attracted Luke toward him.
Luke and Darth Vader eventually battled each other, shortly before one of cinema's most iconic moments: Vader told Luke he is his father. Despite sharing the same DNA, Luke refuses to join the dark side, and eventually escapes.
7. Return of the Jedi (1983)
Year in timeline: 36
Anakin's age: 45
Darth Vader started off as the well-intentioned Anakin, but ultimately fear led him to the dark side. By Return of the Jedi, Vader's actions had come full circle. He was still fighting for the dark side, and again battle Luke. But when the Emperor attempted to torture Luke by using the Force, Vader came to his son's aid, and ended up dying in the process.
Having redeemed himself to some degree, Anakin shared his final moments with Luke, removing his mask and telling him he still had the capacity for good within him. Later, Anakin's ghost was seen when the Rebel's celebrated destroying the second Death Star.
8. The Force Awakens (2015)
Year in timeline: 66
Anakin's age: N/A
By events in The Force Awakens, Darth Vader has been dead for three decades. However, his evil legacy lives on with Kylo Ren, the new villain of the trilogy and Vader's grandson. Using Vader's disfigured mask as motivation, Kylo Ren completes the transition to the dark side, following the same path as his grandfather.
What is your favorite Darth Vader moment?